Dan and Maddie’s Broken Group Gambol
June 27 - July 5, 2008 -- Barkley Sound
This trip report is of a nine day adventure with my daughter, Maddie. It was a trip with lots of sightseeing, meeting other paddlers, pleasant discussion, laughter, and many, many contemplative moments as together we explored this wonderful playground called The Broken Group Islands.
I’d put off paddling in the Broken Group for some time as I didn’t want to deal with the crowds that I’ve heard so much about. To my surprise, we saw very few others while out paddling – the main time that we saw other paddlers was when we were in a campsite. Nonetheless, if you go to the Broken Group looking for solitude, it’s doubtful that you’ll find it (at least during the summer months), so instead, look at socializing as an integral part of the Broken Group experience and you’ll have a great time.
We paddled a total of 126 km over nine days (seven actual paddling days) which allowed us to get an overall look at nearly all the islands in the park but still leaves lots of opportunity to come back and do more exploring.
The Broken Group Islands is a great place for novices and well seasoned experts to explore and play. It’s probably best described as a sea kayaker’s theme park.
Day One – Friday, June 27, 2008 – Toquart Bay to Hand Island
5:30 AM comes early when you just got to bed 3 hours previous and it was difficult dragging my weary body out of bed. Our plan was to have all the gear in the car, kayaks loaded on the roof, and be on our way to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal by 6:00 to be on the 7:45 sailing to Duke Point. We didn’t get on the road until 6:15 and mostly talked along the way about whether or not it was a good idea to not have a reservation on this holiday long weekend. We arrived at the ferry terminal at 7:05 to find the ferry only 30 percent full! We wouldn’t have to wait two hours until the next ferry. It was however, a different story for those travelling to Swartz Bay – for them it was a two sailing wait. As an aside, we also loaded the kayaks upside-down on the van which lowered our overall height to exactly 7 feet – the limit for regular fare – not having to pay overheight saved us some cool cash.
After stopping in Port Alberni for lunch along the way, we arrived in Toquart Bay around 3 o’clock in glorious sunshine. I was a bit surprised to find the only thing at Toquart Bay is a campsite. No stores. No restaurants. Just a campsite. For some reason I was just expecting something more – not that I was disappointed – I had just expected some sort of town. Parking cost us $3.00 per night (which I gladly paid as the area is fairly secure with lots of people walking around in the campsite. If you can arrange to launch from Toquart Bay at high tide, I’d highly recommend it as it’s a long walk to the water at low tide. A cart would be a good thing to have if the tide is out.
After talking to a few people who had just come off the water about their Broken Island experiences, we were finally loaded up and on the water at 5:00 – still lots of daylight left to paddle to Hand Island. We arrived at Hand Island a couple of hours later to find it occupied by a group of students from a private school in Seattle. Their leader was a fantastically charming woman by the name of Jara who was also a pleasure to spend a bit of time with. Jara is a certified guide and has taught Outward Bound courses for several years – needless to say, we picked up a few good camping tips from her in the short time that we had together. We ended the day watching a gorgeous sunset before heading off to bed.
Heading out from Toquart Bay:
Looking out to the Pacific Ocean across Loudoun Channel (note the fog on the horizon):
Arriving at Hand Island:
Maddie decided to camp on the main beach:
Since high tide was a bit low tonight, I chose to camp on the point:
A Hand Island sunset:
Follow this path from the beach and through the trees...
And you'll find this meadow. A lot of campers can stay in this meadow as you'll see in a later picture:
The beach on the other side of Hand Island. There are a few tent spots too -- it's a really nice place to camp:
Day 2 – Saturday, June 28, 2008 – Gibraltar Island
8:00 AM and there’s a voice outside my tent “Good morning, collecting camp fees”. It’s Adam, he’s collecting the required coffers. While chatting with Adam, and paying for the entire week, it was a bit of a pleasant surprise when Adam mentioned that we didn’t have to pay for Maddie as kids under 17 paddle the Broken Group at no charge.
We weren’t in any hurry today (or any other day for that matter) so we milled around the camp for a bit, chatted with our neighbours, and got off to a late start. After saying goodbye to the students and their leaders, we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up our gear and headed off to Gibraltar Island, where we intended to stay for two nights.
We arrived at Gibraltar Island campsite to find 15 or 16 kayaks on the beach. Wow. We both looked at each other and had a realization that the campsite might be full. It turned out that the kayakers were just stopped for lunch and were on a day paddle from Sechart Lodge. They were all members of the Nanaimo Paddlers, a club with members from all over Vancouver Island. While it was nice chatting with them, we can't say we weren't happy that they weren't all camping there -- it would have indeed made the campsite feel crowded with that many people. As it were, we had the entire campsite to ourselves -- for now.
We had done a very thorough job of making sure that we had everything we would need on the trip but somewhere in the process we forgot a very important item – toilet paper. We had about a half roll left in our TP bag, enough to last us for a couple of days if frugal. We were told by some people in passing that we could pick up some supplies at Sechart Lodge, about 4 kilometres from the Gibraltar campsite. After scoping out the campsite and setting up our tents, we immediately set off on a quest for little white double-ply sheets of paper. As we were leaving the campsite a group of about nine kayaks were arriving at the beach. A quick hello as we paddled past and we were on our way to Sechart.
We decided to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the shoreline of Nettle Island while paddling to and from Sechart – the narrow passageways between the small islets to the east and west of the island are very picturesque and well worth the time to paddle through. Arriving at Sechart, we quickly learned that we were misinformed and that there are no provisions available for purchase. A word to others heading over to Sechart with the hopes picking up forgotten supplies is that none are available.
After returning to Gibraltar Island, we told our TP story to a few people and were given a roll of toilet paper by a couple of fellows who were leaving the islands the following day. Over the course of the next couple of days, we would retell our story and ended up with about 3 more rolls of donated toilet paper which we graciously accepted (we figured we could stockpile and maybe barter with it for something else later on).
That evening we shared a campfire with two groups, a couple of fellows from Vancouver, and eight people from Vancouver who were all novice paddlers. The group of eight had decided only three weeks previous to paddle the Broken Group and only two of them had ever been in a kayak before. They were well prepared equipment-wise, and their spirits were exceptionally high – it was obvious that they were all going to have a great time over the next few days. We would find out over the next week that most of the people we met paddling in the Broken’s were novice paddlers, not something that we expected. Having shared the camaraderie and stories of our campmates, Maddie and I went to bed around midnight, after a full day of paddling and adventure.
Heading out from Hand Island and paddling across Peacock Channel:
This large group of day paddlers left Gibraltar just after we arrived. Another group would arrive just as we were leaving on our paddle to Sechart, the arriving group would stay the night:
On our way to Sechart. We would paddle around the east side of Nettle Island (on the left in the photo)
Paddling between the small islands, we would come across several spots rich with oysters:
Maddie looking both ways before crossing the channel (in our house, these are the common sense rules that are taught):
Sechart Lodge. Nice place, but you can't buy toilet paper here:
On our way back from Sechart, we paddled between Prideaux and the west side of Nettle Island. Paddling amongst the islands and islets of the Broken Group is what it's all about:
Rangers floating cabin in the cove on Nettle. This is one of two buildings that we saw in the Brokens -- the other was a small building on native land:
Back on Gibraltar, the campsite has gotten a little bit busy:
Looking towards the campsite from the small islet off of Gibraltar:
A Gibraltar sunset:
Day 3 – Sunday, June 29, 2008 – Gibraltar Island
Once again I awoke to a brilliant day with the sun shining radiantly through the campsite. It would be yet another lazy morning as I got up and slowly began getting our breakfast together. There was quite a bit of buzz in the campsite, the two fellows had called for a water taxi to pick them up a day early and would be leaving this afternoon (we’re not sure why anyone would want to leave this place early). The group of eight were busy packing their gear, eating breakfast, and getting ready to head out to Willis or Dodd Islands. Maddie slept a bit late but with some coaxing and with the promise of breakfast, she got up just before the group of eight were leaving.
We decided that today we would paddle through the lagoon between Jaques and Jarvis Islands, head over to the Tiny Group and then round the outside of Gibraltar Island on our way back to the campsite. Our paddle began along the north shoreline of Jaques Island and then into the lagoon. A couple of boats were moored in the quiet little shallow bay. The water was smooth as glass and we hoped to get through the small channel between Jaques and Jarvis Islands before the dropping tide was too low. We weren’t in a hurry and if the channel was too shallow to paddle through, we’d paddle back around Jarvis Island. It turned out that we had just barely enough water in the channel to pass through and we were on our way to the Tiny Group.
On a small islet in the Tiny Group, there’s a beautiful white shell beach that is a great spot for a relaxing lunch, or just chilling out. We decided after our lunch to paddle to the west side of Mullins Island and then on to explore the small chain of islets towards Imperial Eagle Channel. The islets turned out to be a fantastic place to paddle around, and we experienced some swell (about one metre) for the first time on our trip. The view of the other Broken Group islands from the islets is spectacular. After playing around for a while at Elbow Islet, we paddled across to Dempster, keeping close to the shore and rocks, enjoying the swell crashing on the shoreline. Maddie’s paddling abilities have improved a great deal since last year in the Deer Group
and she was much more comfortable and at ease paddling close to the shore. Paddling around the inside of Dempster we then went through Harbour Entrance and rounded the outside of Gibraltar Island. We found a couple of small surge channels on the outside of Gibraltar and spent a fair bit of time playing around in them.
Arriving back at camp after our five hour paddle we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were very few people at the campsite. Our new neighbours were a woman by the name of Monica from Vancouver who was paddling solo, and a couple from Calgary. We would share the same campsite as Monica for another three nights before our trip was over.
Monica had set her tent up on the beach near the high tide line and then asked us if we’d like some fresh salmon that some sport fishermen had given her while she was out paddling. We gladly accepted and put the butter, garlic, and lemon that we had brought to good use. Later that evening the five of us sat on the beach and watched a gorgeous sunset while the tide crept up on Monica’s tent. When it got within a couple of inches of the tent floor, she reluctantly moved to higher ground. There was quite a bit of suspense to see how long it would take before the move took place. After lots of interesting discussion and laughter with our campmates, we retired for the evening.
The group of eight from Vancouver, just before they headed off. Can you tell that they're enjoying themselves?:
On our way to the lagoon at Jaques Island:
The ubiquitous blue barrel. We would see a few more of these before the end of our trip:
Paddling into the lagoon:
Taking it all in:
Sea hair. We would see lots of this over the next week:
Sea cauliflower. We'd see lots of this as well. Maddie called it "brain matter":
Solitude can be found in this quiet lagoon:
Great blue heron:
There's a lot of shallow water in the lagoon that makes for great marine life viewing:
Looks like a dead-end:
The tide was up just enough that we could squeak through:
Paddling across to the Tiny Group:
A beautiful little beach on one of the Tiny Group islets:
Maddie leaving the beach after lunch:
We saw lots of eagles in the Brokens:
Heading to the islets on the outside of Mullins Island:
A beautiful spot:
Rounding Elbow Islet:
Swell. As you paddle near the rocky shoreline, the water rises and falls creating lots of noise and some interesting places to paddle:
Paddling through a small channel:
After arriving back at Gibraltar, Maddie makes use of her drawing set and draws some pictures. Our campmate's tent is on the beach but not for long...:
It was quite amusing as we watched the tide rise to a couple of inches of the tent before Monica moved it to higher ground:
Another Gibraltar sunset:
Day 4 – Monday, June 30, 2008 – Clarke Island
Our plan for the day was to paddle to Sechart to refill our water containers and then make our way to Clarke Island where we planned to stay four nights. We were doing OK with water but it would be tight (we were drinking more because of the hot weather that we were experiencing) We felt that if we paddled a few kilometres out of our way and refilled now, we wouldn’t have to think about water for the remainder of our trip. Besides, it’s a nice paddle over to Sechart.
We arrived at Sechart shortly after the Francis Barkley left on its way to Ucluelet and pulled up on the small beach near the smaller building on the right. There’s a hose at the side of the building that the lodge owners will allow you to fill water bottles with. The main building is for guests of the lodge so it’s best to respect their privacy and only access the building on the right as you’re facing the lodge from the water.
While we were at Sechart, a black bear just happened to show up right behind the building that we stopped at. We got some nice pictures of the bear eating grass and then left Sechart and headed to Clarke Island. The sky was overcast as we headed across Sechart Channel and rounded the west side of Prideaux Island and then across to Jarvis Island where we explored the cove on the west side. Making our way through the Tiny Group, we then paddled between Walsh and Chalk Islands and then to the outside of Dodd Island. Dodd provided us with lots of rock gardens to play around in before heading across to Willis Island where we stopped at the campsite. The Willis campsite is huge. And it was full to capacity. We would learn later that there were more than 30 people camping on Willis that day.
Crossing over Thiepval Channel, we weren’t sure if the tide was high enough to allow us to paddle between Turret and Trickett Islands but as we approached, we could see that we wouldn’t be able. Instead, we paddled around the west side of Trickett and were treated to the sight of a doe and her fawn crossing between the islands. We stopped and watched, and took a few photos before carrying on our way to Clarke Island.
Our first glimpse of the campsite at Clarke was one of amazement – it’s an absolutely beautiful setting of white sand, dark coloured rock, green trees, and what appears to be nicely manicured grass (we would learn later that the grass stays trimmed from the deer that feed there). There were eight other paddlers at the campsite when we arrived and it didn’t seem at all crowded. A couple of ladies from Oregon were occupying the south end of the beach, two vacationing nurses from Vancouver had a couple more tents, and a group of four funny guys from Vancouver occupied the best spot on the island – a spot that Maddie and I would move to when the guys left the next morning. Maddie and I found that we we had a difficult time remembering the guys’ names so we called them the 'fun guys'.
We were a bit tired from a long day of paddling so we set up our tents, had a quick and easy dinner, and readied ourselves for an evening of relaxing around the campfire with our campmates. During dinner, we noticed a couple of fellows with kayaks paddle towards the other side of Clarke Island from the direction of Loudoun Channel – they rounded the island and apparently were setting up their camp at the far end of the beach on the opposite side of the island, where camping is not permitted (because at high tide, there is no access to the outhouses).
Two of the fun guys hiked over to meet the two new arrivals – they would return about a half hour later laughing and having a great time, the reason for which will become apparent shortly. It turned out that the two guys that had just arrived set their tent up without realizing that they were below the high tide line. They were informed that they were not supposed to camp there and would have to move to our side of the island. As we sat around the campfire, we learned from the two fellows who paddled Loudoun Channel that neither had any experience paddling and one of them was paddling a sit on top kayak! No wetsuits. No map or chart. What they did have (besides luck) for their "four or five" day stay in the Broken Group was a bag of potatoes, a bag of carrots, four litres of water between the two of them, three fishing rods (of which two broke by their second day), and seven cases of beer. Oh yeah, and one great big bag of BC bud. We did get their names and a few pictures, but in the interest of protecting the 'nearly innocent', we`ll refer to the two fellows who paddled across Loudoun Channel in two metre swell, from this point on simply as “The dope smokers”.
The evening around the fire turned out to be a very enjoyable one with lots and lots of laughter. The dope smokers told us of their epic crossing; complete with what we were sure were a few lofty embellishments. None the less, it made for great entertainment and spurned lots of other funny stories from the fun guys and the nurses. At some point in the evening, the discussion turned to paddling and before long we were talking about hypothermia and the dangers of cold water. It was a terrific discussion to which everyone had something to say – most of it was humorous in one way or another, but it was obvious that everyone was thinking about their paddling skills and habits.
Maddie was the first one sitting around the fire to hit the sack, and then slowly, one by one, everyone had left the fire and gone to bed except for the dope smokers – they were twisting another one as I took my leave.
The Francis Barkley leaving Sechart as we were arriving:
Bear behind the building at Sechart. He was quite occupied with eating grass and didn't pay much attention to everyone taking pictures:
After leaving Sechart, we were once again paddling between islands and islets where starfish were a common sight:
As we approached the Tiny Group we see a gathering of crows. It started with two and within minutes, a whole crowd had gathered. We figured they were up to no good:
Campsite on Willis Island. This is the smaller of two beaches:
The larger beach on Willis:
Looking the other direction on the larger beach. Tent spots are in the trees:
A doe and her fawn cross between islets near Tricket Island:
Around the campfire on Clarke. Lots of laughing and good times with the four fun guys, the two nurses, and the dope smokers (not in the picture):
Day 5 – Tuesday, July 1, 2008 – Clarke Island – Canada Day
This would be a no paddle day. A day to wake up late, laze around, maybe go for a hike and explore the island, cook some nice meals, and just generally chill out.
We were greeted at about 9:00 AM by a cheery voice wishing everyone a “Happy Canada Day!”. The voice belonged to Lisa, the park fee collector. Lisa was accompanied by her assistant, Adam. Each morning we would be visited by the happy duo. Lisa would give everyone the weather report, tide information, and the park attendance count – today there were a total of126 people camping in the park. Each day as our trip progressed we found ourselves looking forward to the morning visit from Lisa and Adam.
We watched as the fun guys joked around and laughed while packing their gear into their boats. It was amazing how cheerful these guys were considering all the fun they had consumed the night before. The nurses were packing their boats as well, but they had a much more relaxed and stress-free approach about it and would complete the task long after the fun guys had paddled on their merry way.
It was interesting after the fun guys left that Maddie came up to me and said “Dad, did you notice that all the fun guys were wearing their wetsuits?” I hadn’t noticed, probably because seeing paddlers in wetsuits is commonplace to me, but when I thought about it, Maddie was right – they were all wearing them. Maddie continued to say “That’s just so cool Dad, obviously the talk around the campfire made a difference because they all said that they had wetsuits but hadn’t worn them. That is so cool.” Maddie notices things like that.
We sat and had a pleasant chat with the nurses while they finished their morning coffees and got into their boats. They were heading to Hand Island for the night and then on to Toquart Bay tomorrow.
By eleven o’clock, we had things so well under control that breakfast became brunch. Most of our neighbours had packed up and left the island either for a new destination or for a day paddle. All that were left were us and the dope smokers – and they were just now beginning to rustle inside their tent. Shortly after brunch, they would appear from their tent and immediately begin rolling a joint to have with their morning coffee.
Maddie and I decided to hike along the trail (near the chimney) that leads to a small beach, about half a kilometre from the campsite. The short hike is well worth doing. It meanders through the thick forest, over, and under, many large fallen trees. Along the way, there’s a large concrete structure. It’s a cistern, created to collect water for the house that used to be on the island. At the end of the trail is a very nice little gravel beach that’s a great place to have lunch, a cold drink, sit and read, or just simply be there.
All that remains of the house (at the campsite location) are a few cement footings and the fireplace, complete with chimney. Lisa told us that the house was originally built in the early 1900’s by a group of five families from the US. At one time there were trails that led to each of five beaches on the island. Tent pads were constructed at each beach and the families all had a specific beach and tent pad. The house was used during inclement weather. In the 1970’s the island and the house were expropriated by the federal government to make way for the new park. Unfortunately the five families probably weren’t thrilled with losing their utopia, but certainly good for the many, many people who have visited the park and experienced this beautiful island.
We also explored the beach and tide pools on the opposite side of the campsite – it’s a larger beach with only one really good campsite for two or three tents. Sunsets from that side of the island are apparently nothing short of spectacular (although we didn’t see one while we were there). If there’s a negative aspect to camping on that beach is that it’s quite exposed to wind. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful spot if you can get it.
While on the beach, we came across a whole bunch of bones – vertebrae were collected and lined up on a log along with other bones from what we’re guessing used to be a sea lion. In the sand, in front of the log with the bones, were the tips of three or four bones, all about an inch thick and an inch or so apart of each other. Maddie started an archaeological dig and began unearthing the sand from around the bones. When she got about three or four inches of the bones exposed, she grabbed firmly on the completely sand cleaned end, and began pulling, and pulling, and pulling, until a sort of loud ‘shlooorrrp’ sound was emitted and the bone came slowly but determinedly free of the sandy beach exposing a great big chunk of the still gooey and decaying carcass that was attached to the other end! To say that Maddie jumped would be a huge understatement. She bounded about ten feet away, all the while making strange incoherent sounds. As soon as the initial reaction was over, she laughed, and then we both laughed, and we continued to laugh as we carried on down the beach.
After all that excitement, I decided to have a nap while Maddie checked out tide pools and sat around the 24 hour fire that the dope smokers had going. When I awoke she was sitting in the campsite giggling. She said that she just listened to the funniest thing to be heard this week – the dope smokers began mimicking an episode of “Survivor” based on all the people currently camping on Clarke Island. I can only imagine how funny it was – apparently, they wanted to work on creating a good alliance with Maddie and I because we had lots of paddling knowledge and good food so they granted us immunity (sorry, I don’t exactly know what that means because I don’t watch the show, but Maddie ensures me that it’s a good thing). Just in case anyone who was on the island is reading this, I won’t say who the dope smokers voted off the island but I can say that the party or parties, were about as polar opposite of the dope smokers as they possibly could be. I can only imagine how much fun it must have been sitting there listening to these guys going on and on.
After a while, Maddie asked if she could bake a cake. I thought it a strange thing for her to ask (as if I’d say no) and figured she just wanted some company as the dope smokers had gone fishing. While the cake was baking I decided to set up another tarp as the weather was forecasting fog later than evening – it would be nice to have a little more space that wouldn’t be covered in dew.
When the cake was nearly ready, Maddie looked out and saw that Monica was on the beach. Sure enough, the same lady that we met a couple of nights before on Gibraltar was here on Clarke. Monica was talking to someone else on the beach when Maddie went over and offered them some cake. Everyone was duly impressed with Maddie’s cake and Monica offered to help Maddie with the dishes (which was fine by me as it was my turn). Before the cake was all gone, another couple arrived on the island, a very nice couple from Seattle who had camped with Monica the night before.
Dinner this evening was a new recipe that we were quite looking forward to try – Pesto Fuccili with toasted pine nuts. The beginning of the meal starts with sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil – just enough scent to ensure that the meal will be worth the wait. And it was. But we had too much. Way too much. But it wasn't a problem. We also had the dope smokers just coming back empty handed from their fishing trip and they happily took what we couldn’t eat.
The evening was spent beside a campfire shared by Monica, Adrian and Alison (from Seattle). At dusk, we were visited by a doe and her fawn, the fawn running playfully around the grassy area of the campsite. After an enjoyable evening of stories and laughter, we all retired to our tents.
Maddie warmes herself up by the fireplace:
A huge upturned root system of a tree along the trail to the beach:
The cistern built by the people who owned the house:
Small beach west of the campsite. It's well worth the hike:
Giant root system. The islands are so rocky that trees have a difficult time getting roots deep into the ground. As a result, when they get old and big, big winds knock them down:
The view from our campsite:
The beach in front of our campsite:
The beach in the other direction:
Maddie doing some excavating:
Dancing crows. You really have to watch your food -- leave it for a moment and the crows will get it:
Visitors. Adrian and Alison arrive at Clarke:
Night time visitors. A doe and her fawn came by the campsite each night:
Day 6 – Wednesday, July 2, 2008 – Clarke Island
Today is the day we selected to explore the outer islands, including a circumnavigation of Effingham Island. Maddie and I were quite looking forward to this day as we knew we could expect some bigger swell.
Following breakfast, we left camp in a fairly heavy fog and paddled between Clarke and Benson and then over to Wouwer. As we crossed over Coaster Channel we experienced 2 metre swell – there was little wind, so it made for a very pleasant and relaxing paddle. Maddie wanted to explore the area between Wouwer and Batley so we took the inside route for this portion of our trip. We came across some small islets between the two islands that were home to some remarkable wind-blown trees that were not unlike giant bonsai sculpted trees that have been frozen into the landscape. The trees, rock, and fog created an eerie atmosphere as we silently paddled amongst the islets.
Continuing on we paddled along the outside of Dicebox Island where we noticed a large cave. After nearly passing past the cave, I looked back towards it and noticed some light inside at the back. I called to Maddie that we should paddle around the back of the island and see if there’s a spot where we can get out of the kayaks. To my surprise, there was a great little beach on the backside of the island so we stopped there and hiked along the exposed rocky shoreline to the cave location.
What a cave it is! The cave, or should I say tunnel, turned at nearly 90 degrees and was quite large. We were able to stand inside it although we couldn’t get all the way through as there was water in one end. After chilling there for a while and checking out the marine life in the cave, we hiked back to the beach. A group of paddlers arrived at the beach and before we left, we told them about the cave. As we paddled off, we could see them hiking along the shore to explore the cave, I’m sure they weren’t disappointed.
As we paddled towards Austin Island, it became apparent to us that while we were exploring the cave, the fog had lifted and the sun was shining and skies were blue -- we hadn't even noticed this until we got back on the water. Our route took us past Austin Island and then along the shoreline of Effingham Island. The swell had dropped off and was now only about a metre high – not a lot, but it made for interesting paddling close to the shore.
On the outside of Effingham, there is a large arch that can be paddled through if the tide and swell is right. Today, it looked good but having not paddled through such places before, I felt that it would be best to just watch from a safe distance as the swell swirled around from each side of the arch, meeting in the middle of the arch with crashing violence. When our experience level is a bit higher, then we’ll come back and paddle through the arch. I paddled into the channel and got fairly close to the arch and watched. Swell dropped and rose over a metre – quite exciting when you’re only a few feet away from rock walls and the roar of crashing water is all around. After paddling back from the arch, Maddie went in and sat for several minutes, observing the swell as it went up and down through the arch. Time it wrong, and you could end up crashing down on the rocks in the middle of the arch. Maddie backed out of the channel and commented on how exciting it was to be sitting in that spot. After the arch, we found a bunch of rock gardens on the west side of Effingham and spent quite a bit of time playing around in them before heading to the campsite at Gilbert Island.
We arrived at Gilbert to an empty campsite and enjoyed a nice lunch on the beach in the company of many, many mosquitoes. After lunch we made a decision to head straight back across Coaster Channel to Clarke Island as it was getting late in the afternoon.
Arriving back at the campsite, we were a bit surprised to find that we had only two new neighbours, a young couple from Vancouver that we had met on the water the day before. The dope smokers had left, paddling off to Hand Island for the night, and then a shorter crossing to Toquart Bay. They might have been high, but they weren’t stupid. We were glad that they changed their original plans to paddle back across Loudoun Channel to Ucluelet.
That evening was spent once again in the enjoyable company of Monica, Adrian and Alison, with visits from the young couple and the two fellows who were camping on the other side of the island. The two guys from the other side of the island brought beer with them – enough for everyone (except Maddie, of course). We liked those guys and had a very nice evening with everyone telling stories that were true and stories that could be true.
Early morning fog as we set out to explore the outer islands:
Cave on Benson island:
Maddie paddles past a stack off of Benson:
Enjoying the quiet of the morning in rippled waters:
A calm area between Wouwer and Batley Islands creates a nice mooring area for boats:
Giant bonzai trees:
The fog creates an eerie feeling as we paddle between the islands:
The cave on Dicebox Island:
Paddling around Dicebox. Maddie is about a metre higher than I am in this picture:
The beach on the back of Dicebox -- a nice spot to stop for a while:
The other end of the cave:
Pink rock crust inside the cave. A seaweed that is smooth and hard to the touch:
Inside the cave:
Panorama from inside the cave looking at both entrances:
Back at the beach, there's lots of bees busy at work on the many flowers in the area:
Lots of kelp along Austin Island:
Cave on Austin Island:
Cave on Effingham Island:
Another cave on Effingham Island:
High above us on a cliff, this bald eagle watches intently at something in the distance:
The arch on Effingham:
Maddie goes in for a closer look:
Playing around rock gardens on the outside of Effingham:
Small arch on Effingham:
Stopped for lunch at the Gilbert Island campsite:
Taking a moment for contemplation on the way back across Coaster Channel:
Back at camp it's time for some serious relaxing:
The relaxing goes well into the evening:
The sheep log:
Day 7 – Thursday, July 3, 2008 – Clarke Island
It’s a moon snail morning. I awoke at quarter to six to a silent campsite. The tide was out, in fact it was a negative tide this morning and lots of marine life was exposed. I had to get up and investigate. To my delight, the area right in front of our campsite at the water’s edge was covered with hundreds of moon snail casings. And lots and lots of moon snails just below the sand surface. I’d seen casings before but never a moon snail so this was a bit of a special moment. As I’m looking down at the toilet plunger shaped casings, I find two very large fully intact moon snail shells and pick them up for Maddie. Later on, Maddie would give one of them to Monica, for her to give to her niece.
Maddie got up around 9:00 and was eager for breakfast. We sat in our campsite enjoying our pancakes while Monica, Adrian, and Alison packed their boats as they were all planning on camping on Hand for the night. Our plans were to paddle around Turret and Turtle Islands and return for a last night of camping on Clarke Island. We got on the water around half past twelve and began our journey with a trip to the big tree on Turret Island. Along the way we watched with fascination as a mother seal was teaching its pup to swim. It was interesting to watch the mother nudge the small pup along and then stop to allow the pup climb on its mother’s back for periodic rests.
After stopping and taking a look at the campsite on Turret, we arrived on the small beach on the largest bay on Turret Island that hosts the trailhead to the giant cedar tree we had read about in Mary Ann Snowden’s book. The tree, while broken off much lower than its original height, is impressive and is indicative of the size of the trees that once grew on the islands. It’s well worth the short hike to see it.
While having some lunch on the small beach, we listened to a weather report and heard that rain was predicted for this evening (earlier it had been ‘possible showers’). Since we were planning to camp on Hand Island on our last night, so that we would have a shorter paddle to Toquart Bay on our last day, I thought it might be better to leave a day early to avoid having to pack up wet tents and then have to set up wet tents for our last night. It made more sense to move today, and spend two nights on Hand Island. So the decision was made and we left Turret island at 3:00 PM for the hour long paddle back to Clarke Island, pack up our gear and make our way to Hand Island. Maddie commented several times that our camp mates from the last couple of nights will be surprised to see us. I think Maddie just really enjoyed their company and was looking for an excuse to meet with them again on Hand Island.
We left Clarke Island at five o’clock and decided to take our time and do some exploring along the way. We still wanted to paddle around Turret Island and then instead of doing a circumnavigation of Turtle Island, we would paddle in the channel between Turtle and Willis Islands. It was a relaxing paddle and we arrived at the Dodd Island campsite at seven o’clock. Stopping to stretch our legs and take a look at the campsite, we met a group of people that we had previously met at Sechart Lodge. They had a Pygmy Tern 14 and Tern 17 and we noticed a couple of things about the way the boats were built – it turned out that they had built their boats using the build journals on westcoastpaddler.com as guides. They thanked us for the effort that we put into the website and offered us some freshly baked brownies.
Maddie and I never turn down fresh brownies so we graciously accepted and found the brownies (with big chunks of chocolate) to be very, very good. We thanked them for the early-evening snack before getting back in our boats and continuing on our way to Hand Island. About 45 minutes later, we arrived on the beach on Hand – Maddie immediately jumped out of her boat and went searching for Monica, Adrian, and Alison and found them chilling out under a tarp on the beach – Maddie was right, they were surprised to see us.
The campsite at Hand was quite full – along with our new friends was a large group of paddlers that had spent the better part of the week camping on Hand. Despite being full, we did manage to find spots for a couple more tents in the small meadow (we would find out later that there are more tent spots in the treed area across from the main campsite). After setting up our tents, we relaxed around the fire before heading off to bed.
Moon snail egg casings:
Sunstar on moon snail casing. I'm not sure what's going on here, but I assume that the sunstar is eating the eggs:
Resident mink on Clarke Island amongst "brain matter". Note the chunk out of his tail near his body -- maybe a scrape with another mink, or...:
On our way to Turret Island:
Mother seal teaching its pup to swim:
It's a short hike from the beach to the giant tree on Turret Island:
The beach at the trailhead. Also makes a good stopping spot for lunch:
Starfish are everywhere:
Another bald eagle:
Paddling around Turret. That's Turtle Island across the channel:
Crossing over Thiepval Channel to Turtle Island:
Mergansers. They have the coolest do's:
Maddie checking out the marine life near the shore:
The campsite at Dodd Island:
Part of a totem pole(?) on the beach at Dodd:
Paddling towards Brabant Islands on our way to Hand:
Remember the meadow on Hand from the beginning of this report? Things are a bit more crowded tonight:
Adrian had set up a great tarp cover for us to hang out under:
The tarp came in handy the next day as it was raining. It would continue to rain for most of the day. Here, Adrian and Monica relax with a coffee before Monica heads off to Sechart to catch the Frances Barkley:
The big group left in the early afternoon:
Day 8 – Friday, July 4, 2008 – Hand Island
Rain. The forecast yesterday had been correct and it rained overnight. We were glad that we moved to Hand rather than packing up wet gear this morning. It was a rather lazy day with the rain. Monica was on her last day in the Broken’s and was catching the Francis Barkley later in the morning. I wanted to go paddling so I accompanied her to Sechart and then paddled back through the Pinkerton Islands. Just before arriving at Sechart, a couple of fellows in a sport fishing boat approached us and asked if we would like some salmon. Of course we would! I took the salmon steaks back to our campsite and Maddie, Adrian and Alison, and I all enjoyed a terrific salmon dinner on our last evening in the Broken’s.
After paddling back to the campsite, I found Maddie and Alison sitting underneath the tarp keeping dry. The large group had left and the campsite was now occupied by only the four of us. Maddie had started a book and was not interested in doing anything else. I ended up in my tent for a few hours sorting through photos from the trip and having a short nap. The rest of the day was pretty much spent just simply relaxing and taking it easy. Maddie only left from the shelter of the tarp a couple of times and completed the book she was reading in a day.
Late in the afternoon, a group of three paddlers showed on the beach and would be staying the night. It turned out that I used to work with a friend of one of the paddlers. It’s indeed a small world.
Dinner time was a bit of an event as it was our last night of the trip. We pooled our food with Adrian and Alison and had an assortment of pasta along with the salmon steaks. It was a tasty meal. That evening as we were heading off to bed, the rains began falling hard. It would continue to rain through the night.
Hardly took any photos of our second to last day in the Brokens, but I did get a picture of the three paddlers who showed up in the afternoon and shared our tarp with us that evening:
Day 9 – Saturday, July 5, 2008 – Hand Island to Toquart Bay
The wind was howling through the trees and waves were crashing on rocky shorelines. I lay in my tent in darkness thinking that we weren’t going to be paddling anywhere for the next little while. Might as well go back to sleep.
I woke up again around eight o’clock to a voice outside my tent – it was Lisa. Happily, she tells me that winds are blowing 25-35 knots and she’s recommending not paddling this morning. She tells me that the forecast is calling for lighter 15-25 knot winds in the early afternoon. Might as well go back to sleep.
I got dressed and was out of my tent at ten o’clock. It was still blowing and raining hard but it didn’t seem as bad as it was an hour earlier. Looking out across over Sechart Channel and white caps dotted the water’s surface but the water towards Toquart Bay didn’t look bad at all. We would be in no hurry but we were good to go whenever we got our boats loaded. The four of us loaded our boats, carried them to the water’s edge (the tide was out) and were on the water shortly after eleven. The trip to Toquart Bay was quite uneventful and quiet as we paddled to our final destination in the rain.
Paddling back to Toquart Bay, the water was a bit lumpy and it was raining, but we were still having fun. Maddie and Alison crossing over Loudoun Channel:
As we finished crossing over Loudoun Channel, conditions smoothed out and the rain nearly stopped:
Just to make things more interesting, we got a huge downpour just as we were passing the Stopper Islands. It would clear up before we got to the beach at Toquart Bay:
After loading all our gear and boats, we said our goodbye’s to Adrian and Alison then got into the car and began the drive home, talking about all the terrific things we did and saw over the last nine days.
As we were heading up the hill from the campsite, sunshine broke through the clouds and I looked over at Maddie and she said “You know Dad, it’s a good thing that we had a bit of rain so that we can fully appreciate all the good weather we had.” Maddie notices things like that.
GPS track log of our trip:
So would we go again? Heck yes! It’s a terrific place that you can visit time and time again and see new things every time you go.